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From freezing temperatures in Reykjavik to a balmy, brilliant 27 degrees in Orlando. That’s been my journey of the past three days as I have swapped one Interim Bureau, and one industry event – the ACI Europe Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition – for another, at the 2019 Summit of the Americas.
Iceland may have been cold (I feared they might have to send out the Slysavarnarfélagið Landsbjörg – the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue – during my cab ride to Keflavik Airport in a snow blizzard, pictured below) but I cannot recall an industry event where the hospitality was remotely as warm.
Icelanders just get on with life. And with the weather. Admittedly they have little choice. Within a language and vocabulary packed with memorable and quirky phrases, they have a particular favourite – Þetta reddast (phoenetically Thetta reddast) – that sums up that stoical, somewhat fateful, philosophy.
Loosely translated, it means ‘Everything will work out’, or ‘All will be ok’. It’s used in any situation where there’s a problem. A nationwide banking collapse, the largest experienced by any country in economic history? Þetta reddast. A massive volcano eruption from Eyjafjallajökull, causing massive disruption to Icelandic and world air travel? Þetta reddast.
“Do you think my flight will take off in this weather?” I asked the taxi driver. “Þetta reddast!” shot back the reply.
Our brilliant hosts, Isavia (the operator of the country’s airports), might have adopted a Þetta reddast attitude to organising such a complex event, but they didn’t need to. Just the charm, warmth and efficiency of the team allied to the spectacular beauty of this island nation guaranteed that it would be a success – and encourage many such as me to return in the future.
As someone who loves words, my exploration of the term Þetta reddast led me down some fascinating semantic byroads. The land of fire and ice has a wonderful array of catchphrases, some just too good not to include here.
One is gluggaveður. It means ‘window weather’, as in the kind of weather that’s lovely to look at but not experience. I saw plenty of gluggaveður from my room at the Centerhotel Arnarhvoll. The view from my 15th floor Moodie Davitt Report Interim Orlando Bureau at the Hyatt Regency is rather different but all that gluggaveður is part of the magic and majesty of Iceland.
But my favourite Icelandic phrase has to be Rúsínan í pylsuendanum. It means ‘the raisin at the end of the sausage’ . I suspect you’ve never used the words raisin and sausage in a single sentence before, have you? Well, come back to Iceland with me, and I guarantee you will. Basically, its meaning is similar to the English term, ‘icing on the cake’ – a bonus element to something that’s already good. Day two of the ACI conference (see my day one report here) was very much a raisin at the end of the sausage, a continuance of perhaps the best ACI retail conference I have attended.
So was my experience of Keflavik Airport on my way back to London for a 16-hour stop before flying to Florida. The commercial team have done a great job here, through an eclectic food and beverage offer, a Sense of Place ethos for once worthy of the description, and a nicely varied, open and attractive retail mix. My message to the airport management? Áfram með smjörið. It means ‘on with the butter’, a nicely evocative way of saying ‘carry on; keep doing what you’re doing.’ Áfram með smjörið Isavia and Keflavik Airport, what you are doing is very good indeed and with an ambitious commercial expansion ahead, about to get a whole lot better.
One week, my fingers frozen to the bone after a ten-minute walk through the streets of Reykjavik; the next, an early-morning jog in gloriously warm Florida sunshine. And you know which I prefer? Funny isn’t it? Or put another way, Margt er skrýtið í kýrhausnum – there are so many wonders in a cow’s head.
I have plenty of work to catch up on here at my Interim Bureau but before I close, I will honour my vow to somehow work a particular Icelandic word into this Blog. Have you got enough disc space on your computer? Here we go…
Vaðlaheiðarvegavinnuverkfærageymsluskúraútidyralyklakippuhringur. It has 64 letters but I suggest you don’t try pronouncing them altogether until you’ve had about 12 shots of Reyka vodka. Try as my ageing mind might to work it seamlessly into a blog about travel retail, I’m going to have to give up. It means, you see, ‘the keychain ring containing the key of the outer door to the storage tool shed of the road workers in a place called Vaðlaheiði’ – not a phrase perhaps that I will use too often down the years.
But here’s one that I do plan to repeat. Takk Fyrir Síðast (‘thank you for the last time’). It’s a lovely way to express your appreciation to people you met at a gathering. So Takk Fyrir Síðast Isavia and good luck with your exciting development plans for Keflavik Airport. There’s no need to worry about them. Þetta reddast.